Monday, June 30, 2008

Remember the Reasons

On “the issues,” it was always a wash between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; if anything, Obama was even worse. They agreed about everything – except mandates for health insurance. Clinton was for them; Obama against. On the face of it, this made her plan better – at least for inching closer to genuine universal coverage. Her plan probably is better, but it is far from certain; there are good arguments on both sides – and far better arguments supporting a single-payer system. This is why both Obama’s and Clinton’s plans are profoundly unsatisfactory. It is why there is no case to be made for or against either of them on this account.

Why, then, was it urgent that Clinton lose? I never had much faith in the reasons Obomamaniacs have. They have at last two: that Obama is better than he seems, and that, after he’s President, this will become clear; and that the mere fact that he is half of African descent is a good thing. As to the first, insofar as there’s an argument, it’s just that Obama plainly knows better than he lets on. This is doubtless true. But, after you peel away the layers of rank opportunism that the Clintons have piled up over decades, it’s probably true that Hillary knows better too. In neither case, does it make any difference. Obama’s “real” view of, say, Israel/Palestine is probably better than AIPAC’s. But when it comes down to it, because he and his advisors think it necessary for winning the general election and then for governing, he’ll pander to AIPAC just as much as Hillary would. QED. As for his African descent, yes, that would be a good thing for Americans and the rest of the world to see – for the few minutes before reality intrudes and people come to their senses. There is no evidence at all that Obama would govern in a way that would address African American concerns better than any of his former Democratic rivals, Hillary included. In fact, there is now good reason to think otherwise -- after his “denunciation” of Jeremiah Wright and then his scolding black fathers. Neither is there any reason to think that Obama’s African descent would make his foreign policy better, or even affect it at all.

Obamaniacs still have a reed to cling to, however: the JFK argument. Kennedy too had center-right politics and his brief tenure in office was awful, at least for anyone inclined to worry about the prospect of nuclear annihilation. But, thanks to his charm and wit and overall charisma, he did help set more progressive forces in motion; he was especially “inspiring” to the young. That Obama might unleash similar forces is a hope that’s not yet discredited. But, of course, it’s not up to Obama; it’s up to those of us who know better than he does or who, at least, have different agendas. Given the state of the “peace and justice” and environmental movements in this country, I’ve never been very hopeful about this prospect. But it is still a reason for not entirely regretting how the nomination process turned out.

Anyway, my reasons for opposing Clinton were different, and never had much of anything to do with hopes or rather illusions about Obama’s merits. I had two reasons. One has already melted into the ether of our decrepit political culture. The other is rapidly following suit.

We have a Democratic Party, a POP -- a Party of Pusillanimity or, what comes to the same thing, of Pelosiites – that can’t even bring itself to impeach Cheney and Bush et. al., let alone bring them to justice. Because they think it politically expedient and/or because they are cut from the same cloth, they’d as soon let the crime family that has led us to the brink of ruin for the past eight years get away with much worse than murder; this in the case of perps whose criminality is transparent and of historical dimensions. The (Bill) Clinton administration committed many of the same crimes, though in a less obviously offensive way. It was responsible for the deaths of some million Iraqis through sanctions, and for a host of other actionable offenses – many, though by no means all, committed in the name of “humanitarian interventions.” These included an illegal war to dismember Yugoslavia, to cite just the most transparently proto-neocon example. It will be for historians in the distant future, not Democrats today or tomorrow, to mete out to them the judgment they deserve. But a Hillary defeat, I reasoned, would, in its own way, serve the cause of justice here and now; especially if it took the form of an outright repudiation.

Of course, as a rule, wives are not responsible for their husband’s crimes. And, having carpet-bagged her way into the Senate, this wife never did anything in the way of Bush aiding and abetting (her specialty!) that rises to the level of an actionable crime in its own right. Neither is it a crime (in the literal sense) to have permanently marginalized the idea of single-payer health insurance or to have set back the cause of universal coverage for a generation. These were, after all, her signal contributions to American politics before the 2000 election. So it might look like there’s no reason of “retributive justice” to deny her the office she thought her due. But, remember, that she ran against Obama and the others on the grounds that she had more “experience.” Even her diehard backers should realize that this vaunted experience came her way by being Bill Clinton’s official wife. If she wants to take credit for that, then she too should do the time. But since no time will be done, she – and her better half – can at least suffer a political judgment. This was why I hoped not for Obama’s victory, but for her abject defeat.

But, of course,, she didn’t go down abjectly – just gracelessly. Meanwhile, the Democrats, with Obama in the lead, can’t do enough to make nice to her and to pander to her diehards (of whom, evidently, many decades ago, there was one born every minute). Since finally bowing out, the cult of Hillary, dormant since the early 90s, is now again on the rise. It’s a sickening spectacle; not worthy even of Democrats. But it’s happening. Thus the first – retributive justice – reason for defeating her candidacy is now a lost cause. In this respect, from today’s (and probably tomorrow’s) vantage point, it might even have been better had Hillary won.

The more important reason for defeating her, though, was to prevent a Clinton Restoration. There was never any doubt that an Obama presidency would include old Clinton hands. But there was a hope that the more culpable miscreants of the old regime – the Albrights and Holbrooks and their ilk – would be replaced by others slightly less noxious. After all, Obama did surround himself with advisors, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, though no less imperialist than the mainstream Clinton folk, at least had the good sense to oppose the Iraq War (if not the others) from the beginning.

But this reason too is rapidly melting away. As I’ve explained in recent postings, to the delight of the corporate media and their sponsors, the Clinton campaign, advisors and all, is folding into Obama’s with astonishing – indeed, unseemly -- rapidity. Meanwhile, as the two former rivals make public lovey dovey, even the appearance of differences in style and temperament are fading. We may be witnessing the birth of a super-individual, hermaphroditic entity – a Barack-Hillary. The charismatic, personable side comes from the male member, as it were; but the politics is pure Clintonian.

The conventional wisdom mongers on NPR and in the so-called quality press may like what they see. But, for anyone with eyes, it’s not a pretty sight. And neither is it a salutary one for those of us who still think there’s a chance to turn “the ship of state” around from the disastrous course set by Ronald Reagan, Bush the Father, Hillary’s husband, and, last and worst, the criminals who now rule along with and in the name of the dimwitted Bush boy.

Democrats squandered an opportunity for real change, not plus ça change…, when they nominated Obama over John Edwards or even Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd (not to mention the unmentionable Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel). Thanks to Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld incompetence, and the disasters they brought on, the prospects for a change of course, leading to a softer landing for the American empire, were more propitious than they had been for decades. But the opportunity is fading. The POP, for its part, is doing everything it can to assure that nothing good, only something a little less bad, will come of the November election – with Obama or rather Barack-Hillary leading the way.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama and the Supremes

Was it “bitterness” or crass opportunism that made Obama say that he has no problem with the latest from Clarence and the Supremes: their proclamation that the DC handgun ban is “unconstitutional”? This was a shameless flip flop for the candidate of “change we can believe in.” May Dick Cheney shoot him in the face for it!

Then there’s Obama’s flip flop on capital punishment. Well, perhaps not a flip flop, since he’s been equivocating on the death penalty for as long as he’s been in public life. But it is fair to say that once upon a time (until a few days ago), even relatively informed people assumed that, of course, Obama is a death penalty opponent who just didn’t want to make an issue of it (because of the way blood thirsty Republicans skewered Mike Dukakis on the issue). Perhaps so; it wouldn’t be the first time that Obama knows better than the positions he takes. As a state Senator in Illinois, he did work to limit, but not eliminate, capital punishment, and to make it more likely that the innocent don’t get killed. He certainly gave the impression, back then, that he’d do more, maybe even favor abolition, if the political climate was more propitious. In any case, when even the Supremes decided that it was “cruel and unusual” (unfortunately, not unusual enough) for the state of Louisiana to judicially murder someone found guilty of child rape, Obama thought it important to “disagree.” The candidate of change (of plus ça change…) is evidently not yet ready to lead the Home of the Brave into the middle of the twentieth century (according to the standards of our not very “civilized” world).

Remember how Bill Clinton interrupted campaigning in New Hampshire in 1992 so that, as Governor, he could go back to Arkansas to oversee the judicial murder of a retarded man, Ricky Ray Rector? No doubt, Obama now feels his pain.

Obama is also backtracking on renegotiating NAFTA, on corporate taxes and on increasing taxes on capital gains. Can backtracking on withdrawing from Iraq in sixteen, unconscionable months – Obama’s Pelosi-Reed style “anti-war” policy -- be far behind?

Not only is Barack Obama melding his campaign with Clinton’s; he’s morphing into her. My advice: unless you’re in need of a powerful emetic, don’t watch today’s spectacle in Unity, New Hampshire where the two of them (or are they now one super-individual entity?) will be campaigning together.

It is remarkable how, even in late June, we are already so deeply in the throes of trying times for lesser evilists. As well-meaning “liberals,” always ready to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, acquiesce, the situation will only get worse.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What's Truth Got to Do With It?

Barack Obama got brownie points in the corporate media, and on corporate friendly NPR, for denouncing Jeremiah Wright, though most of what Wright said was, well, right. Now, these pro-regime propagandists have joined leading Democrats to go after their favorite target, Ralph Nader. His purported crime: besmirching his “legacy” by bad mouthing Obama – to get “attention.” His real offense was that, like Wright, he dared speak the truth. Reduced to its core, what Nader said was that Obama has had as little to say about institutional racism as any other Democrat (excluding the handful of genuine progressives still in the party), and that his appeal to liberals depends partly on “white guilt.” Nader pointed out the obvious: that Obama and his supporters have used Obama’s race to immunize themselves from criticism on issues that bear on racism – the better to assuage white voters’ fears. Wright went a little over the top when he accused the feds of spreading HIV/AIDS in black communities, though, given the historical record, the charge isn’t all that outlandish. In any case, most of what he was denounced for saying was irrefutable. Nader’s remarks were entirely dead on. No matter, though; truth has nothing to do with it. What matters, liberals fantasize, is that once Obama dispatches John McCain – no matter how many “compromises” and flip flops he makes along the way – he’ll somehow emerge as better than he’s so far been. It’s unlikely, but not impossible. However, there’s no chance that anything like this will come to pass unless voters to Obama’s left (that would be almost all Democratic voters) put the pressure on him now – and increase it with each rightward turn the lesser evil candidate takes. Even then, the prospects are poor: what with Clinton and Obama “bundlers” paying the piper and expecting their due.

Obama Picks Up the Pace

Barack Obama isn’t exactly coming down from a high plateau. Except for Joe Biden (Obama’s Secretary of State?) and, of course, Hillary Clinton, he was the most right wing Democratic contender from the get go. He managed to win the nomination without doing much to placate voters to his left; after all, once it became a Hillary v. Obama contest, why bother! Then, with the nomination secure, he predictably slouched even more to the right, as I’ve indicated in recent postings. Now, just three weeks after dispatching the Hillary threat, he’s picking up the pace.

His first major flip flop of the past few days, turning down public financing, was probably inevitable, given how much money he has already raised “privately.” But abasing himself before Clinton “bundlers,” as he will at a fund raiser tonight in Washington, is a bit over the top; especially coming so soon. Has the man no shame! Read the reports this morning about how the Clintonite Obama is melding his campaign with the Clintonite Clinton’s. Apparently, it’s the Clinton Clintonites who find the process most unseemly. They should know – unseemliness is the virtue of a political orientation that sprang forth out of Ronald Reagan’s bowels and that, having prepared the way for George W. Bush, now proposes to continue his designs on the world in a more competent, and, as Bush the father would say, a “kinder, gentler” way.

Obama’s worst, and most revealing, flip flop is soon to come: he’ll vote to give telecom companies – not incidentally, heavy campaign contributors – retroactive immunity from law suits for illegal wiretaps ordered by the Bush administration, and he’ll support the other proposed “bi-partisan” changes to the FISA law. The Bush/Cheney government has been operating in blatant violation of the Constitution. What do Congressional Democrats propose to do about these “high crimes and misdemeanors”? They could accept their Constitutional responsibilities by impeaching Cheney and Bush. But not our Democrats! Rather, change the law Cheney and Bush have been violating – and make the changes retroactive. Obama used to oppose this, as any decent legislator would; now he’s for it. Surprise! Surprise!

On the war, on giving corporate America everything it wants, on disregarding the needs of the poor, on keeping organized labor down, on mollifying minorities without addressing their interests, Obama has never been anything but a mainstream (Clintonite, center-right) Democrat. Now it turns out he’s an enemy of American freedoms too – much like his co-thinker, Nancy Pelosi. Compared to John McCain’s Republicans, he’s still the lesser evil – but he’s pushing the limit, and he’s getting closer day by day to going over the edge.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Bush Democrats"

Democrats of the Pelosi era hardly count as an opposition party, but there are several oppositional wings within the POP (the Party of Pusillanimity): chief among them is These groupuscules are dedicated to fighting the rot from within. To this end, just yesterday, came out against what they call “Bush Democrats”: the eighty Democrats who voted to give Bush and Cheney another $163 billion to continue the occupation of Iraq; and the one hundred five Democrats who voted for telecom immunity – legal immunity from lawsuits for illegally wiretapping American citizens – and for otherwise continuing Cheney’s and Bush’s assaults on privacy and civil liberties on the pretext of fighting terrorism. Two of the three House leaders, Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, were among the Bush Democrats on Iraq. Nancy Pelosi was not, though in her never-ending effort to provide textbook cases of what Pelosiism is, she, more than anyone else, let it happen. On aiding and abetting Bush’s war on Americans’ freedoms, Pelosi dropped even the pretense of talking the talk, joining Hoyer and Emanuel and the other miscreants. is to be praised for publicizing and criticizing the extent to which their party collaborates with the Cheney/Bush government. But their term “Bush Democrats” is superficial and misleading. Yes, Democrats still aid and abet the simpleton in the Oval Office, even now that he has no “political capital” left. [Remember how full of himself he was when Condi Rice taught him that expression after the 2004 election! He couldn’t say it often enough.] The problem is not just that Democrats tremble at the thought of seeming like they don’t “support the troops” or seeming “soft on terrorism.” The pathology exhibited by so-called Bush Democrats, and most other Democrats too, runs deeper.

The problem is that what Cheney and Bush want, most Democrats also want: they want to make the world safe for their paymasters in the military-industrial complex, giving them pretty much everything they want or think they need – militarily, diplomatically and domestically. The only difference: the Democrats would do it more competently, and with a little bit more concern for the sensibilities of their core constituencies. The word I’ve been using to describe their political orientation from the day I started this blog is “Clintonism.” As I’ve argued from Day One, the designation is apt. What calls “Bush Democrats” are Clinton Democrats.

Freud used the word “illusion” to designate beliefs that are expressions of (unconscious) desires. As such, illusions can be true, though they usually are not. Many liberals harbor illusions (in Freud’s sense) about Barack Obama. Perhaps, after he becomes President, they won’t be too disappointed. As of now, however, the evidence suggests that they will feel sorely deceived; it supports the hypothesis that Obama is a Clinton Democrat too. As I’ve explained in my two most recent entries, by incorporating old Clinton hands into his campaign apparatus, Obama is currently moving even more unmistakably in a Clintonite direction. Now, it seems, that Hillary herself will be campaigning with Obama later this week. Can Bill be far behind? One can only hope that these developments will bring Obamamaniacs, the ones who weren’t born yesterday, to their senses. Don’t count on it, however.

Not seeing Obama’s Clintonism for what it is makes it ever more likely that yet another opportunity will be missed. [The biggest missed opportunity for the Democratic Party was not selecting a more progressive nominee. John Edwards would have been a far better choice than Barack Obama; so would Bill Richardson or Chris Dodd. If we add in the “unelectables,” Dennis Kucinich and (my favorite) Mike Gravel, it is plain just how awry the nomination process went.] Anyway, the time to start working on Obama is now. He must be pulled away from the Clintonites, towards the hundred fifty-one Democrats who’ve finally seen the light on Iraq and the hundred twenty-eight who’ve seen the light on “the war on terror.” It will be too late to wait for the defeat in November of the greater evil, the doddering war-mongering, “maverick” Bushman Obama will run against. To be sure, a Clintonite Restoration, especially one without a Clinton in the lead, is an improvement over another four years of the Republican version of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush politics. But, at this juncture, we can do better than that; we can have a much less evil lesser evil. However, to that end, it will be necessary to push hard; Obama and the forces pulling him Clintonward must be fought diligently every step of the way.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama Slouches Rightward, part 2

Lets be ultra-charitable and forgive Obama for doing what he thinks he must to get elected. If he doesn’t want to be pictured with Muslim women wearing headscarves, as happened at the Gore endorsement rally in Detroit, that’s reprehensible, but OK. In a better possible world, public displays of godliness would be as offensive to the vast majority as public displays of same-sex love are to the godly in this possible world. But, in our time and place, the exclusion of those women makes public relations sense – notwithstanding the plain fact that it represents a concession to the most rampant form of contemporary xenophobia. A Democrat’s gotta do what a Democrat’s gotta do. Ditto for rejecting public financing. Ditto even for abject pandering to right-wing Cubans and Zionists; though that’s even more blatantly reprehensible because it wouldn’t happen in that better possible world where the godly would feel compelled to act out their superstitions and ignorance in private. One could even forgive Obama’s likely acquiescence in the Pelosiite “compromise” on Bush war funding when it comes to the Senate. I’ll bet he finds some way to absent himself when the time come to vote. If he doesn’t, my guess is that he’ll vote like the Pelosiite he is. What is least likely, the way things are now going, is that he’ll side with the minority of Democrats who are finally willing to join the handful of their more principled colleagues who were in the opposition from day one, by insisting that enough is enough. Ever since Bush and Cheney launched their campaigns of murder and mayhem, Democrats have been falling over themselves to “support the troops” (by keeping them in harm’s way and forcing them to perform unspeakable and often criminal acts). Don’t count on Obama to put that perceived public relations “necessity” in jeopardy any time soon.

What I find more troubling, precisely because it is so plainly unnecessary, is Obama’s incorporation of Clintonites into his “Senior Working Group on National Security.” About the only redeeming feature is that Richard Holbrooke isn’t included – yet. But Madeleine (Mad Maddy) Albright is. Our former Secretary of State is at least as guilty as her boss of actionable offenses in Iraq (killing at least a half million children and many more adults through sanctions), Yugoslavia (illegally promoting the disintegration of the country, causing wanton devastation and encouraging ethnic cleansing), and wherever else it seemed expedient. So is the hapless Warren G. Christopher, Clinton’s first Secretary of State and the “mastermind” of Al Gore’s strategy in the Florida vote recount. There is also Tony Lake, Clinton’s national security advisor; Georgia’s former right-wing Senator Sam Nunn of fund-the-military-industrial-complex fame; and Oklahoma’s David Boren, lifelong friend of the “intelligence” community. There are others equally bad. Read about them here.

During the primary season, when the worst of the Clintonites still had a Clinton to work for, Obama, whether by necessity or conviction, assembled a slightly less motley crew of foreign policy advisors, comprised of people who at least had the good sense to oppose the Iraq War and otherwise to fault the Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld crew for their rank incompetence. Thus we had the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Clarke, Larry Korb, and “humanitarian interventionist” (and other woman’s other woman) Samantha Power running the show. It was, on the whole, a lesser evil. But now even that improvement over the Hillary group is slipping away, as the Hillary group is melded into the Obama fold.

It could get a lot worse too. There are many indications that the Bush government will soon give Israel the green light to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. If that happens, all hell will break loose. Who can say how much worse the situation in the Middle East will then become, or what the effects will be on the American economy. All that is predictable is that instead of slouching rightward at his present, ever accelerating pace, Obama, eternal friend of the Promised Land, will go into full gallop mode – with the worst of the Clintonites in tow.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama Slouches Rightward

Because our electoral institutions are so much less democratic than those of most other “democracies,” they afford little room for the expression of dissident voices. In practice, this means that positions that fall outside the center-right to more extreme but still respectable right spectrum are marginalized. It means, in other words, that most voters have no voice.

It would be different if we had some of what other countries have: genuine public financing, guaranteed media access, easy ballot access, instant run off voting, proportional representation, and so on. Instead, we have winner-take-all elections contested within the framework of a duopolistic party system. A consequence is that here in the Land of the Free, candidates have little incentive to play to their party’s base – not even in the (just concluded) primary season, but then especially after the nomination is secure. Each of the two semi-official parties is sure of some votes, no matter who its nominee is. So it is “independents” that matter. Neither party can flagrantly diss its base – to the point where they lose many votes. But, in the circumstances, with only the alternative party in contention, that’s hard to do. Thus Democrats and even Republicans play to the handful of potential voters who have managed, either through intellectual laziness or sheer indifference, to find, or think they have found, a space in between the two parties. Finding that space is likely to be easier this year than it usually is, unless the Democrats flub spectacularly even by their own standards -- because John McCain, being a war-mongering neo-con more than a “maverick,” will, by November, be seen as tied inextricably to the Cheney/Bush administration. This year, therefore, the Democrats have even more incentive than usual to go after the flatulent middle.

The half or more of the electorate that doesn’t vote is much less in play. No one knows how many don’t vote because they realize there’s nothing to vote for or how many don’t vote in an effort to abstain. It’s probably a large number. In any case, being bought and paid for by corporate malefactors and nefarious “special interests,” neither of the two parties is institutionally capable of going after this mass of voters in a serious way. This year, though, there may again be a partial exception -- so long as Barack Obama continues to “inspire.” As the once and present Rorschach candidate, he stands a better chance than most of attracting those who would otherwise not vote at all.

That the system empowers those who care least is bad news, needless to say; despite this year’s (very partial) exceptions. But there is a silver lining. Unlike in other “democracies,” Democrats (and Republicans too) usually don’t wait until they gain office to betray their constituencies. They betray them from the get go. The 2006 elections were a partial exception. Voters thought they were voting against the Iraq War. Instead they empowered Pelosiites – Clintonites (proponents of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush politics) who talk like (soft) “progressives” and then act like Clintonites of the old school. [Thus today the Pelosiites are about to assure Cheney and Bush everything they want to conduct their wars, as Congress votes to fund them without restrictions. Of course, the Pelosiites stress that they fought the good fight. For their troubles, they won a few milquetoast “concessions” about funding for veterans and the unemployed.] Nevertheless, the general rule still holds. In our duopoly system, betrayals of hope begin before elections, not after. This way, at least, voters know for sure – not just on the basis of past experience – what they’ll be getting.

So it is with Obama. Since winning the nomination, he has pandered shamelessly to right wing Cubans and to supporters of Israel’s collective punishment of Gazans and its Apartheid occupation of the 22% of mandate Palestine that the international community concedes to the Palestinians. Then, on Father’s Day, before conservative black church-goers, he denounced the irresponsibility of black men – sounding, for all the world, like a partisan of “benign neglect,” blaming the victims of racism for the sins of the system. That’s not the least of it – as he incorporates old Clinton hands, like Patti Solis-Doyle, into his expanding campaign structure, and as he calls on “national security” advisors and Middle East experts from the Clinton days. In the interest of honesty and to continue the new (flip-flopped) Bush/Cheney strategy of making nice to the French, Obama should consider changing his slogan from “Change We Can Believe In” to “Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose.” [The more it changes, the more it stays the same.] The liberals who believe in him won’t know the difference.

The conventional wisdom is that the appointment of Solis-Doyle to the group assigned to find and vet VP candidates makes a VP role for Hillary less likely. She’s on the outs, it seems, with the Lady Slickster. That’s good news, I suppose. But the struggle against Clintonism – and its Pelosiite version – has never just been a struggle against the Clintons. As Obama assumes the Clintonite mantle, he and the people around him are fast becoming nearly as great a menace.

Still, given our undemocratic electoral system, with McCain as the only alternative, the least bad outcome is still an Obama victory, even as he slouches ever more rightward. But the time to hold his feet to the fire is long past due. After Obama wins the White House, the struggle will only just have begun.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

After Bush and Cheney & Co. Are Not Impeached

Everyone knows the anecdote that explains what chutzpah means, the one about the boy who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy before the court on the grounds that he’s an orphan. We can thank Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers and the rest of the Democratic leadership for a fresh variant: about the party that took impeachment “off the table” and then claimed, after Dennis Kucinich’s effort last week, that now it’s too late. A summary of Kucinich’s allegations against George Bush can be found at the end of this posting.

All is not lost, however. What conviction in the Senate on charges leveled by the House would have done, had Pelosi and the rest been up their responsibilities, was remove Bush from office. That will happen anyway – soon, but not soon enough. But removal from office is not nearly adequate punishment for a “commander-in-chief” who lied his country into war, with all the predictable murder and mayhem that followed. He and Cheney and Rumsfeld and the rest should be brought to justice.

It seems that, even without benefit of impeachment, once they are no longer government officials, that can happen. In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Vanguard Press, 2008), Vincent Bugliosi, one of America’s foremost prosecutors, the prosecutor of Charles Manson, argues that Bush can be charged for murder by any domestic prosecutor who can legitimately claim standing (say, because Bush caused the death of someone in his or her jurisdiction). All it would take is the courage to go forward. I’d not gainsay his contention; I hope it’s true, and I hope some courageous prosecutor somewhere does too. Perhaps there are also ways, within the U.S. legal system, to charge not only Bush but also Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their high-ranking co-conspirators with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace. People with appropriate legal expertise should work out the details; and the rest of us should start, here and now, to build a campaign to that end.

To that end, it’s time here and now to question Barack Obama whenever the occasion arises about whether, as President, his administration would block criminal proceedings against thier predecessors. There is much else to question Obama about too. Several clear examples that come to mind, thanks to recent events, are his abject groveling before Cuban-American quasi-fascists in Miami, and his self-abasement before the Apartheid advocates of AIPAC. In that regard, he should be asked especially and repeatedly about his assumption of the Hillary Clinton role in beating the war drums against Iran. He should also be asked about his plans for the many hundreds of bases the U.S. military now has in more than a hundred and twenty countries. But justice for Bush and Cheney and Company should head the list. Unless this country learns the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan better than it learned the lesson of Vietnam, the United States is doomed not only to wage more wars of aggression (with ever more tragic consequences), but also to pollute the ambient political culture indefinitely with characters like John McCain.

Will it embarrass Obama to pound him with questions like these? I certainly hope so. There’s no doubt that the Democrats under Obama are a lesser evil than the Republicans under McCain, and there’s no escaping lesser evilism. So, of course, we should do nothing to put the near certain prospect of a McCain defeat in jeopardy. That may mean that people who know better but who live in “battleground states” should vote for Obama. For that we have our very undemocratic electoral institutions to thank. However, those same institutions may also make it reasonable for those of us who live in “safe” states to vote Green or for Ralph Nader (who should be running as a Green), if it seems appropriate at the time, or not to vote at all. In other words, the electoral college system may mitigate the depths to which we lesser evilists must sink. In all cases, though, a guiding principle should be to do whatever seems best defensively – in order not to let the greater evil (in this case, the much greater evil) triumph. However, another guiding principle, running concurrently, should be to push ever leftward, by forcing the right choices on the lesser evil. To that end, there is every reason to ask Obama hard questions – or, rather, questions with obvious answers that are hard for Democrats in the thrall of corporate paymasters and “special interests,” to answer with due respect for the intelligence and decency of the American people.

* *

Following is a summary of the allegations against President Bush that are included in Kucinich's Articles of Impeachment:

Article I: Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq
Article II: Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression
Article III: Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War
Article IV: Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States
Article V: Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression
Article VI: Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114
Article VII: Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.
Article VIII: Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter
Article IX: Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor
Article X: Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes
Article XI: Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq
Article XII: Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources
Article XIIII: Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries
Article XIV: Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency
Article XV: Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq
Article XVI: Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors
Article XVII: Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives
Article XVIII: Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy
Article XIX: Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture
Article XX: Imprisoning Children
Article XXI: Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government
Article XXII: Creating Secret Laws
Article XXIII: Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act
Article XXIV: Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment
Article XXV: Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens
Article XXVI: Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements
Article XXVII: Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply
Article XXVIII: Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice
Article XXIX: Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Article XXX: Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare
Article XXXI: Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency
Article XXXII: Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change
Article XXXIII: Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911
Article XXXIV: Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001
Article XXXV: Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Only Good Democrats

The tides may yet return the crumbs to shore, but for the time being at least, the Clintons are toast. However Clintonism – in other words, Reaganism and neo-conservatism, tailored to assuage the sensibilities of Democratic constituencies -- is alive and well, not just in the Obama campaign but throughout the party. This is why it is big news – in reality, not, of course, in our servile media -- that, at last, somebody has done what the Democrats ought to have done years ago. On Monday, Representative Dennis Kucinich, speaking on the floor of the House, read thirty-five articles of impeachment against George W. Bush!

Needless to say, the unprincipled cowards who comprise the Democratic leadership in the House, the ones who took impeachment “off the table” after the Democratic victories in 2006, will quash Kucinich’s efforts – with the support of the vast majority of their rank-and-file. Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-8), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5) and Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (IL-5) merit special contempt. They are Clintonites to the core.

Last January, Kucinich read articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney. Back then, when Rep. Robert Wexler (FL-19) called for Judiciary Committee hearings, as House procedures on impeachment require, only seventeen Democrats heeded his and Kucinich’s appeal: Neil Abercrobmie (HI-1), Tammy Baldwin (WI-2), Michael Capuano (MA-8), Yvette Carke (NY-11), Lacy Clay (MO-1), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Sam Farr (CA-17), Raul Grijalva (AZ-7), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Jim Moran (VA -8) Mike Thompson (CA-1), Ed Towns (NY-10), and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6).

Will Kucinich and Wexler get support from even that pitifully small number this time around? Or are the Democrats now too focused on “change”? We’ll find out soon enough. But be sure that, whatever happens, yet again, the vast majority of representatives in the so-called Progressive Caucus will reveal their true nature. So will the go-along-to-get-along chair of the Judiciary Committee, the on-again, off-again impeachment advocate and impeder, John Conyers. How pathetic is that!

Since their constituencies handed power back to them in 2006, the Democrats in the House and Senate have performed disgracefully. Now that Obama has taken over at the helm, expect exactly nothing to change.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pandering to the Panderer

n recent elections, the continuator of the principles that animated that brief moment within the New Deal that reflected the best one can hope for from the Democratic Party, a real effort to supply capitalism with a human face, has been Ralph Nader. I believe that his campaign this year is ill-advised and foolhardy, not just for the usual reasons -- the grip of the party duopoly, the pro-regime bias of the corporate media – but also, mainly, because of the passions Barack Obama stirs up among those who might otherwise rally behind a genuinely progressive candidate. But, wisely or not, he is running for principled reasons, not out of a sense that high office is his due. Nader also has a lifetime of positive achievements behind him. He has been perhaps America’s greatest “public citizen.” But mention his name to liberal Democrats and watch them turn red with anger. They still delude themselves into thinking that he, not Al Gore, threw the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is a genuine wrecker. Her politics, not surprisingly, are Clintonite – in other words, imperialist and anti-New Deal. Her achievements, such as they are, include permanently marginalizing the very idea of single-payer, not for profit health insurance, fumbling the 1993 Clinton health initiative so badly that universal coverage has been off the agenda for nearly a generation and, since carpet bagging her way into the Senate, supporting every military measure she can find – including, most recently, voting to authorize Cheney and Bush to do what they will to Iran. Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyle are her co-thinkers; not FDR. Throughout her days in public view, she, like her husband, has never had time for principles. Indeed, the Clintons have given opportunism a bad name. They pander shamelessly and relentlessly – wherever there are votes to be won or contributions to collect. But now that even she concedes that she lost the nomination to Barack Obama, these liberal Democrats who excoriate Ralph Nader cannot pander enough to her. A truly nauseating spectacle!

The denouement of the primary season demonstrated plainly that if Barack Obama knows anything, it is how to play out the clock. Lets hope he doesn’t forget. Within a few weeks, the calls for putting Hillary on the ticket should subside. Were Obama to accede to them, he’d demonstrate incontrovertibly, even before he’s officially nominated, that he’s not worth supporting. He’d also have to spend the rest of his days looking over his shoulder. He should keep in mind the one indisputable thing his erstwhile “humanitarian intervention” advisor Samantha Power told him – that the Clintons are “monsters” who will do anything to win.

The other suggestions for placating Hillary are even more ridiculous. Supreme Court Justice? It has been proven lately, beyond a reasonable doubt, that second and third rate minds can win Senate confirmation. But still? Hillary does have a Yale degree -- along with countless others, including Bill Clinton -- and she worked for Arkansas’ white shoe law firm. The feminist hero got that job the way she got all her others – because she was a wife. What law firm wouldn’t want a partner married to the Governor? Meanwhile, by all accounts, she did little for the Rose Law Firm except, of course, by attracting clients in need of political juice.
Maybe, instead, Obama should force the Democrats to make her Senate Majority Leader. Some pundits have said as much. But Obama would have to be as dumb as the Bush boy to push for that. It would make a mockery of the Senate’s traditions and rules. Were he to try, even the cowardly party leadership would revolt; as well it should.

What then? Maybe, Obama will just tell her to let nature take its course: to stay in the Senate and become the next Ted Kennedy. Believe it or not, there are pundits who think she can. But no matter what they tell her, and no matter how full of herself she is, Hillary is bound to see through that one. She knows Ted Kennedy, and therefore she knows she’s no Ted Kennedy. Of course, she might not know that she knows. I truly hope so: nothing would be so salutary as a good, hard fall for the House of Clinton. But, in her heart, the former Goldwater Girl knows it’s not to be. That’s why I would bet that she will just stew in place as her term winds down. Then she’ll join her husband, if that’s what he still is by then, making money the new-fashioned way – by being sleazy.

The conventional wisdom now has it that there are plenty of diehard Hillary supporters out there; enough to derail Obama’s chances of victory if Hillary won’t bring them into line. There’s little survey data supporting this conjecture, and not even much anecdotal evidence. There are just sound bites from disgruntled ladies of a certain age. But however many of them there are, they have five months to see the error – or rather the stupidity – of their ways. Let Obama pander to them, if he or his advisors think he must. But pander to the Queen of pandering? Basta!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Profiles in Petulance

The word last night was that Hillary Clinton would endorse Barack Obama on Friday, three days after he won the Democratic nomination. This morning, the news is that she’ll wait at least until Saturday and then only “suspend” her campaign, while expressing “support” for party unity and Obama. She’ll not endorse him. She’ll not release her delegates either. I guess their rendez-vous at the AIPAC Love Fest yesterday didn’t quite click. Poor Hillary was still, no doubt, in shock; and Barack must have been too busy thinking up ways to seem bellicose (towards Iran), unfeeling (towards the Palestinian victims of the endless Israeli occupation) and abject (towards the supporters of both). In other words, he must have been too busy stepping into Hillary’s shoes.

Is this the start of Obama’s predictable dash even farther rightward? Time will tell. His VP selection will be revealing. It looked bad for a while. The media was full of reports that Hillary wanted the job. That nightmarish prospect still reverberates. Even this morning on NPR, pop historian Doris Kearns Goodwin promoted the idea. But the danger seems to have passed. Hillary pissed too many Obamaniacs off, and she just keeps on going. Some clever Obomaniac had an inspired idea: insist on putting her better half, Slick Willy, through the vetting process. Evidently afraid of the dirt they’d uncover, Hillary had second thoughts. Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy, who endorsed Obama, along with her uncle Ted, after decades of having nothing to do with the Democratic Party, is on the search committee. It’s a nice gesture to her family. Lets hope she and the other head hunters have their wits about them.

According to news reports, Feminist and Working Class Hero Hillary (yea, sure) has backed down to the extent she has because the rats deserting her sinking ship, her cronies in the Congress and Senate, finally got it together to tell her to back off. They were organized, it seems, by Clinton (not Obama) advisors. Apparently, Clinton loyalists don’t want their Leader to continue to exhaust all her political capital; after all, what’s the percentage in that (for them)? I think they’re right about this. That’s why I hope she doesn’t heed their advice any more than she already has. How much better it will be if her petulance, her sense of entitlement, her gift for denial – and, lets not forget, her husband – keep her going even beyond Saturday. Let her make trouble in Denver! The party, the country and the world need the Clintons to fall hard.

Meanwhile, Obama is being Mr. Gracious by giving Her Petulance all the space she needs. Maybe that makes him look presidential or at least kindly. But there’s really no need. Hillary is no AIPAC. She’s now begging for money (to wipe out her campaign debts), not throwing it around; and the Party Elders, no longer in the Clintons’ thrall, don’t need her anymore. In a word, there’s no reason to pander to her or Bill or to be so solicitous of their feelings. Given how much harm they’ve both done, it’s downright unseemly.

What about her petulant fans? Well, maybe, they do need a little pandering, though it isn’t clear how many of them there are -- how many of the eighteen million people who voted for Hillary in the primaries actually care that Obama beat her. John McCain is such a dodo that even benighted Bush voters won’t be able to abide him come November. It’s Obama’s race to lose, just as it was Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s. But this time around, it will take some doing. As their remaining clout dissipates into the ether, dissing the Clintons won’t be nearly enough.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hillary's Nixon Moment

Will that dreadful woman never go away? She had already lost, but she didn’t concede last night in the sub- sub- basement of a Baruch College building in New York; if anything, she implied she’d fight on and on. How? She asked her voters to send in their suggestions -- recalling Nixon’s Checkers Speech, as at least one pundit old enough to remember observed. If that wasn’t pitiful enough, she did her best to steal the headlines too – on a day when, for the first time in American history, a black man won the nomination of a major party -- by suggesting her willingness to be his VP. Now is the time for all good women and men to tell the Obama campaign, in no uncertain terms, NO. No nightmare ticket! Obama needs a running mate to his left; someone who will tap into progressive white rage. What he does not need is an opportunist War Democrat and corporate flunky who taps into regressive white racism and the resentments of age.

If there’s a difference from Nixon, it’s that Hillary’s diehard supporters evince at least as much self-pity as the candidate herself. Let Obama and the Party Elders appease them, if they feel they must; the rest of us, the once and future victims of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush politics, need not go along.

That politics comes in a competent version; Hillary (clearly) and Barack Obama (probably) are its most prominent, current representatives, along with almost the entire Democratic caucus in the House and Senate. We also have a doddering, brain dead version now represented by John McCain. Thanks to George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s incompetence, we are now at a critical conjuncture – where the Democratic version, what I call “Clintonism,” can finally be overcome – despite massive resistance from the party’s leaders. But this will only happen if we push Obama and the others hard enough. Obama’s victory in the primaries, now accomplished, was an indispensable step in that larger struggle; the next, absolutely necessary step is to kick Hillary and Bill off the stage altogether. Let the day come – sooner, not later -- that we not have those wretched Clintons to kick around any more.

Remember, though: Just a few years after Nixon said we wouldn’t have him to kick around, he was back. Then he went on to do incalculable harm. We must act now to insure that in four, eight, or a dozen years nothing like that happens again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The End is Nigh (or Is It?)

Speaking yesterday in South Dakota, Bill Clinton said he might no longer be making campaign appearances, igniting speculation that Hillary would concede tonight. But, if we’ve learned anything since 1992, it’s that a Clinton’s, especially a Bill Clinton’s, words must be carefully parsed. This would not be the first time that what he said is amenable to many contradictory constructions. Also, the Clinton campaign vehemently denied an Associated Press report indicating that Hillary will indeed throw in the towel tonight -- after the voting in South Dakota and Montana is finished, and after bucket loads of “super delegates” declare for Obama.

Hillary does have a big event planned for New York City, though. That’s where she launched her campaign, and it would a fitting place for her to end it. Don’t count on it, however. Barack Obama has his own event planned tonight in Saint Paul, Minnesota – in the hall where the GOP will nominate John McCain later this summer. I’d wager that, no matter how clear the writing on the wall is, Hillary still has it in her to want to up-stage him.

Since many super-delegates are reported ready to declare for Obama today or tonight, Obama is almost certain, by night’s end, to have more than enough convention votes to secure the nomination. It will be interesting to see if he declares victory before Clinton concedes (if she ever does). Tonight is an obvious time and Saint Paul is a fitting place, whether or not the Clintons are on board. Let them rain on his parade with all the spite that’s in them; they can’t stop him now.

Indeed, the Clintons are toast and it’s just a matter of time before we see the backs of them! But lest we succumb to the hope that Clintonism too is on the skids, remember that tomorrow night in Washington both Clinton and Obama will be addressing AIPAC, declaring eternal fealty to the tribal state under God for which it stands. Maybe what Obama says will be subtly less noxious than Hillary’s remarks; he is the lesser evil, after all, and there is the example of his comparatively decent speech to Cuban Americans in Miami last month. But anyone expecting to see a clear sign of support for international law and political morality is likely to be disappointed; unless, of course, they interpret what they hear with a willful disingenuity reminiscent of the way Bill Clinton speaks when his back is against the wall.

In that regard, Todd Purdum’s piece in the July issue of Vanity Fair – now available on line -- on the peregrinations and state of mind of Hillary’s better half is must reading.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Appeasement, POP Style

The Party of Pusillanimity, the POP, arrived at a solomonic solution to the Florida and Michigan Questions, according Hillary Clinton a (largely symbolic) net gain of twenty-four delegates, while maintaining some pretense of abiding by the rules that the Clinton campaign endorsed along with all the others, back when the Clintons thought they were sure winners without Florida and Michigan. Hillary and her fans would have ended up worse off had the party followed its rules. But the Democratic National Committee’s Committee on Rules and By-laws, with the Obama campaign’s support, decided on appeasement. They did it, they say, for unity’s sake; in other words, to try to undo some of the damage the Clintons have done to the POP’s chances for victory in November. Maybe they’re right; but if they had a backbone, they would have handed the Clintons their due. Of course, to say “backbone” and “Democrat” together is to utter a cruel oxymoron. In the coming struggle against Clintonism,it will therefore be up to the people who will vote for Obama, not Obama himself and not his wretched party, to expel that dreadful duo from our political life.

That time is coming! The more obstinate Hillary becomes, the fewer friends she has left. Already there’s blood in the water. Bill’s blood too. Let the saga continue and the Clintons will fall hard. Howard Ickes, speaking for the campaign, “reserved the right” to take the Florida and Michigan Questions to the full convention’s Credentials Committee in Denver this summer, and even to fight it out on the floor of the convention itself. As the Bush boy would say, “bring it on”! The POP will never give the Clintons their just deserts; they’re too cowardly even to impeach Cheney and Bush. But it is looking more and more like there will be some justice meted out nonetheless.

Meanwhile, what about those ardent and stubborn Hillary fans? It’s hard to believe there could be all that many of them (maybe the ones in DC yesterday were all there are). But, in a country that lionizes Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan and that elected George W. Bush twice, anything is possible. W.C. Fields got it right: there’s one born every minute.

* *

Meanwhile also yesterday, because yet another man of the cloth, a white priest no less, uttered some “inconvenient truths” from the pulpit of Obama’s church, Obama quit said church. The priest, Father Pfleger, mocked the Clintons from the pulpit. Obama, it seems, had a problem with that – as if it doesn’t make infinitely more sense to make fun of the Clintons than to praise the Lord. But since no American politician has the “audacity” to point that out in this Benighted Age, we should rejoice in what we can get – and hope that Obama stays churchless for a while. His resignation from Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ bodes well. It shows he can be made to do the right thing, even if for the wrong reason.